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Civil Rights at Work: Respecting and Protecting Your Employees' Free Speech

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on January 10, 2018 2:58 PM

We live in politically-charged times, and we often don't check our opinions at the office door. And even if we do, the internet has an amazing knack for carrying them into work anyway.

From loose water cooler talk to social media posts that go viral, employees can often put their foot in their employer's mouth. So can you limit your workers' free speech? And do you have a legal obligation to accommodate it in the workplace? Here are a few helpful articles, from our archives:

1. Surveillance in the Workplace: Top Legal Questions

It's your property, and they're your employees, right? Shouldn't you be able to keep an eye on them and monitor their behavior? To an extent, yes. But be careful -- workplace surveillance has its limits.

2. Is It Legal to Fire Someone for Being a Neo-Nazi or White Supremacist?

You want to respect your employees' political beliefs, but some beliefs can be too extreme or put your small business in a very bad light, especially if bigoted beliefs or speech amounts to harassment or contributes to a hostile work environment. Even in states that bar firing employees for off-the-clock activities, there are exceptions for those with on-the-clock effects.

3. 3 Ways to Respond When Employees Misuse Social Media

Your employees are going to be on social media, and, like everything else in life, might not always get it right. The problem with getting it wrong on the internet, though, is that the wrong tends to hang around for a while longer, if not forever. So having a solid social media policy can help.

4. Are Non-Disparagement Clauses Legal?

While adding a non-disparagement clause to a business' terms of service has become all-too-common (and mostly illegal) these days, what about adding them to your employment contract? Can you limit employee speech if it's bad speech about the employer?

5. Do's and Don'ts To Avoid Whistleblower Retaliation Claims

The one time you definitely can't muzzle an employee from talking about work is if that employee is reporting a statutory or regulatory violation. Retaliation against whistleblowers is illegal and can end up costing your small business even more than the alleged violation might.

6. 3 Times You Can Fire An Employee For Off Duty Conduct

As we referenced above, out-of-the-office conduct can follow us back into the workplace. Here are a few instances where that conduct may be a fireable offense.

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